When China announced plans to lock down Wuhan and most of the surrounding Hubei province, the news was greeted with astonishment around the world. Experts warned that it was an unprecedented and risky attempt to control the virus that might not work.
Nearly two months later, with the daily number of new cases in China down to single digits last week, Wuhan is starting to emerge from two months of isolation, and this approach has become the model for other countries with outbreaks that appear to be sliding out of control.
Now there is speculation the British government is preparing to implement something similar in London, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak in Britain.
Other countries appear to have suppressed or contained the disease without such stringent measures, including Taiwan and Singapore, but they acted early and fast on other measures including testing, contact tracing and social distancing.
On 23 January China locked down Wuhan city, home to 11 million people, where Covid-19 is thought to have originated. It was probably the most extreme lockdown so far and at the time it was brought in the move was met with some international scepticism, including from the World Health Organization.
No journeys were allowed in or out of the city, even for those with compelling medical or humanitarian reasons.
Inside the city, public transport was suspended and private cars barred from the roads in most circumstances, except as part of the fight against the virus.
Most people live in residential blocks or compounds, and management barred visits. Only inhabitants, authorities, or people providing help to elderly or disabled were allowed in.
Schools and universities were already closed for the lunar new year holiday but that was extended. Most shops were closed; only pharmacies and supermarkets remained open.
People were only allowed to leave their homes to get essential supplies or seek medical help, and anyone who did go out was required to wear a mask.
Two weeks later conditions were tightened, with authorities ordering house-to-house searches for potentially infected individuals, and forcing them into quarantine.
Some restrictions have been lifted, allowing residents in key industries to start returning to work, but schools remain closed and curbs on transport are still in place.
On 8 March Italy shut down the northern region that was most severely affected by the virus; two days later it extended the controls to the entire country.
Travel is only allowed for “urgent, verifiable work situations and emergencies or health reasons”.
People who have tested positive for Covid-19 must not leave their homes for any reason, while anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms is strongly encouraged to stay at home and limit social contact, including with their doctor.
To avoid work-related travel, public and private companies have been urged to put their staff on leave.
Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open, but little else.
Schools and universities are closed, and all exams cancelled. Religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another – but ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.
All gatherings “in public places” have been banned, not just large-scale events. All museums and cultural venues are closed, as well as nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and casinos.
Sporting events were cancelled. Swimming pools, spas, sports halls and ski resorts across the country are shut.
France’s full lockdown began at midday on Tuesday. People are barred from leaving home except to buy food or essentials, visit the doctor or get to a job certified as not doable from home.
They have to carry a special document, certifying why they are outside, to show to security forces.
About 100,000 police officers have been deployed to enforce the lockdown, with checkpoints to be set up nationwide.
These are the toughest restrictions on public life outside wartime, and the president, Emmanuel Macron, described the battle against coronavirus as a “public health war … against an invisible and elusive enemy. There can be no more outside meetings, no more seeing family or friends on the street or in the park.”
France had already closed all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops from midnight on Saturday and creches, schools and universities from Monday morning.
After crowds continued to gather outside, Paris closed all its parks and gardens.
Effective until 7 April, it is a voluntary order, directing residents to stay inside unless absolutely necessary – in contrast with legally binding restrictions elsewhere.
All businesses considered non-essential – such as bars and gyms – were ordered to close, and their workers to work from home. But grocery stores, pharmacies, launderettes, restaurants serving takeaway, petrol stations and other “essential businesses” will remain open, and municipal services such as rubbish collection will continue.
Residents can leave their home for essential tasks, exercise and care duties, but have been asked to keep six feet away from other people.
All non-essential gatherings of any size are prohibited, as well as non-essential travel “on foot, bicycle, scooter, automobile or public transit”.
Airports, taxis and public transport will continue running, but only for essential travel.